Professor Mike Jackson, Birmingham City Business School

The Queens Speech announced new monitoring powers this week “to tackle terrorism”. This bill entitled the “Investigatory Powers Bill” has its roots in the “Communication Data Bill” (nicknamed “the Snooper’s Charter”) which the government intended to introduce in the 2012-13 Parliamentary session. The Snooper’s Charter was eventually dropped due to opposition from the Liberal Democrats. The details of the new bill are not fully known as yet but it is believed that it will give the police and security forces even greater powers than those set out in the 2012 draft.

What will almost certainly appear in the new bill is the requirement for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and mobile phone operators to record the activities of subscribers. A record of texts, emails and phone call will be held for at least a year. This rule will apply to all subscribers and not just those who might be under suspicion of terrorist activity. Mobile phone operators and ISPs will need to invest in the infrastructure to support this requirement and will inevitably pass these costs on to consumers.

Another area the bill is likely to address is encryption. A number of apps allow users to encrypt messages so that third parties (who may potentially be criminals) cannot intercept and read them. The problem for the Government is that this also makes the content of the messages unavailable to the security forces. A possible solution is to legislate against the use of encryption which is so complex that it prevents government bodies breaking it. The problem with this approach is that if the security forces can break the encryption then hackers will as well.

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Mike Jackson

Mike Jackson

Director of Academic Quality & Enhancement Birmingham City Business School